Uncrewed Systems Technology 049 - April/May 2023

66 N ot so long ago, UGV developers were few and far between, but now there are hundreds of them, tailoring autonomous robotic solutions for organisations andmarkets of every stripe. And as with aerial and aquatic systems, they are particularly valued in applications regarded as highly dangerous, dirty or otherwise undesirable for people. As a result, many UGVs are being engineered in uniquely intelligent ways, not as multi-purpose ‘Swiss army knife’ tools as multi-rotor UAVs often are, but as highly specialised systems for taking on some of the most heavy-duty jobs in the world. Military logistics While logistics is often regarded as an enormous market for uncrewed systems, the term itself encompasses a huge variety of use cases and types of customer. In fact it is so large that UGVs are often designed for specific uses. That often results in UGVs that look very different from each other. For instance, the Clevon 1 ( UST 47, December 2022/January 2023), Kodiak’s Gen4 truck ( UST 48, February/March 2023) and the Ottobot 2.0 from Ottonomy (see page 48) are all designed for ‘logistics’. However, the first is a 320 kg vehicle working mainly on city roads, the second is a giant highway-bound 18-wheeler that steers clear of cities, and the third is a 90 kg UGV that works principally in airport terminals or along sidewalks. Another bespoke UGV is Stratom’s Autonomous Pallet Loader (APL), which has been developed largely for loading and unloading cargo frommilitary as well as commercial aircraft and trailers. Its design is similar to that of a forklift, but with four tracks rather than wheels, enabling tank steering for better manoeuvrability in confined spaces and over off-road terrain, as well as a proprietary system of powered rollers for easier autonomous transfer of cargo from its forks to racks. It is built for a 1:1 ratio between its empty weight and payload capacity, and currently weighs 10,000 lb (4535 kg). “The current demand we see is based on the 10,000 lb payload capacity,” comments Mark Gordon, president and CEO at Stratom, on the decision to build the APL at that particular size. He adds that the platformwill be adapted to different use cases as their cargo loading, unloading and transport needs evolve. “One of its components for robust weight carrying is the patent-pending design of the outriggers, which allows the vehicle weight to be in parity with the payload capacity,” Gordon notes. “With this solution, customers can lift and transport heavy cargo without needing a counterweight or ballast on the back of the vehicle.” The powered rollers meanwhile consist of a pair of removable, motorised and If there’s a job too dangerous or too dirty for people to carry out, there’s now a UGV designed to do it instead. Rory Jackson reports Danger zone April/May 2023 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Stratom’s APL is designed as a forklift to autonomously carry payloads of up to 10,000 lb, for loading and unloading of military cargo planes and similar operations (Courtesy of Stratom)